Is there a focus or a theme to Microsoft corporate giving?
There are four key areas that define our corporate giving program. The first focus is Access to Technology. This is the program through which we support non-profit organizations that implement innovative and effective programs to increase access to technology, especially in disadvantaged communities. Our second focus point is Employee Giving, which has two components: the matching gifts program and the Annual Giving Campaign. The third area, Community Support, focuses on giving in locales where our employees live and work, with a special emphasis on the Puget Sound region. The final focus is Higher Education — we support the efforts of colleges and universities to advance their information technology programs.
Is one area more important than another?
They’re all equally important, but the programs we’ve created to build and extend technology access in disadvantaged communities can be especially inspiring. For example, the Working Connections program, which we co-manage with the American Association of Community Colleges, funds new and enhanced information technology programs at community colleges across the country, with an emphasis on recruiting and training disadvantaged populations for careers in their local technology industries. Our Connected Learning Community grants, managed by Microsoft’s regional field offices, support learning and communication in communities that haven’t traditionally had access to PC and Internet technology.
This June, Steve Ballmer joined the Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC) in Washington, D.C. to unveil their Gateway@Edgewood computer lab, the flagship of a rehabilitated housing project in Northeast DC. The lab was developed with the support of a Microsoft Connected Learning Community grant, along with extensive volunteer technical assistance and support from a local Microsoft employee. The lab, which serves hundreds of residents with computer literacy, job training and kids programs, is the centerpiece in CPDC’s effort to involve and inspire the Edgewood community, and a terrific example of what a Connected Learning Community grant can accomplish.
Do the Non-profit Technology Leadership Grants fit under the Access to Technology umbrella?
Definitely. Nonprofit organizations have a strong need for the latest innovations in computer technology to manage their operations and provide programs and services to their clients in the most efficient way. Because their budgets are often very tight, nonprofits don’t always have the resources to build the technology infrastructure they desperately need. The Non-Profit Technology Leadership Grants provide selected nonprofits a chance to update existing computer systems and implement creative new systems that address the specific issues each organization faces.
One of our 1997 grantees, the National Court-Appointed Special Advocates Association (CASA), provides trained volunteers to serve as advocates for abused children negotiating the legal system. CASA used their leadership grant to develop a state-of-the-art case management and volunteer tracking tool that will be instrumental in measuring the effectiveness of their work for children.
These grants often act as a stepping stone for nonprofits to increase their understanding and application of PC and Internet technology. The results speak for themselves — nonprofits with their hands freed up from busy work so they can reach out to their clients.
Microsoft has a dynamic employee matching gift program. What are some of the features?
We have a wonderful matching gift program through which we’ll match dollar-for-dollar employee contributions up to $12,000 each year for every employee. This program is unique in its scope, and the level of commitment and generosity I see in our employees continually impresses me. For fiscal year 1998 alone, Microsoft employees donated more than $9.4 million in cash that was matched dollar-for-dollar by Microsoft. In the same year, Microsoft employees donated more than $11.6 million in software.
How do Microsoft’s software mission and Community Affair’s mission mesh?
Microsoft’s mission is to make it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day. Microsoft does that by creating tools that enable people to reach their potential. Microsoft Community Affairs’ mission is to provide people with the resources they need to meet their goals. At Microsoft we believe technology can empower individuals to accomplish great things. That’s why so many of our giving programs, such as Working Connections and Connected Learning Community grants, are about expanding access to technology — we believe everyone deserves the benefit of these resources.
How did the corporate giving program begin at Microsoft?
To understand the origin of Microsoft’s corporate giving, it is helpful to look back at the origins of the company. When Bill Gates and Paul Allen began Microsoft as a small start-up in 1975, Bill was bringing with him a long family history of charitable giving. Both of Bill’s parents were very involved with the United Way, and even when Microsoft was a small company there was a deduction program in place for donations to the United Way. So, you could say the program has grown as the company has grown. An official corporate giving program has been in place since the company went public in 1986.